- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Republicans didn’t lose Congress in the November midterm elections because of the war in Iraq, says pollster Dick Morris, but rather because they didn’t do anything — and nothing has changed under the new Democratic leadership.

Dick Morris, but rather because they didn’t do anything — and nothing has changed under the new Democratic leadership.

In Mr. Morris’ new book, “Outrage,” co-authored with his wife, Eileen McGann, he says Americans are outraged by everything from the “do-nothing Congress,” which worked an average of two days a week last year, to immigration policies.

“When Congress appropriates $13 million for the world toilet summit and when we have 89,000 aliens awaiting deportation, and 30 people charged with doing it, I get outraged,” Mr. Morris said.

Mr. Morris, who served as a political consultant for Bill Clinton for 20 years, says Americans are no longer shocked by, and often expect, media bias and political scandal.

A Gallup Poll shows that 14 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress, the lowest rate in the history of Gallup’s polling data.

“I think the problem is that most of what is corrupt in Washington is not illegal,” Mr. Morris said. “There’s nothing wrong with channeling earmarks to your favorite projects and getting campaign contributions from groups that profit from it, but that ought to be illegal.”

Mr. Morris said many congressmen put their spouses on their campaign payrolls so they can legally receive contributions from companies and lobbying firms.

“When you put your wife on the payroll and you launder the campaign contribution through her, it comes out as personal income to the member of Congress, and I do think Congress should enact a rule that bans family members or immediate family members from being lobbyists,” Mr. Morris said.

“When former Speaker [J. Dennis] Hastert and current Majority Leader [Harry] Reid and current Minority Whip [Roy] Blunt all have their children or wives lobbying, it is really an outrage,” Mr. Morris said.

The book suggests banning all immigration from terrorist countries, banning congressmen from putting spouses on their payrolls and banning drug companies from bribing doctors.

But Mr. Morris, who also has advised Republicans such as Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, said he is most concerned with earmarks.

Mr. Morris said earmarks, a term used to describe pet projects that lawmakers add to appropriations bills, are not illegal.

“The biggest thing is the fact that almost one-tenth of discretionary spending in the federal budget is now being guided by earmarks, which are not voted on, not subject to any administrative review,” Mr. Morris said. “They take money from things that are very important.”

Mr. Morris said the money appropriated to repair the levee systems in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina hit was instead earmarked for a pet project of a senator from Louisiana to help decrease barge traffic.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended strengthening the New Orleans levee system, and Congress appropriated $748 million for those repairs, but Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, Louisiana Democrat, “helped get the $748 million allocated to building a new lock on the New Orleans industrial canal, even when the Army Corps showed that barge traffic on the canal had been decreasing,” Mr. Morris said.

“You have the politicians from New Orleans reallocating the money from strengthening the levee, which was desperately needed for repairs, to building a new lock, which was totally unneeded,” Mr. Morris said.

Although earmarking is legal, Mr. Morris said, Congress could make it illegal by passing two legislative reforms. He suggests giving the president line-item veto authority, thereby giving him the power to reject specific appropriations instead of entire bills. Mr. Morris also suggested giving the president authority to impound appropriations.

“When Congress votes to spend our money on nonsense, let the president refuse to write the checks,” the book says. “The chief executive used to possess this power; it’s time to bring it back.”

Mr. Morris said he and his wife, chief executive officer of Vote.com and Legalvote.com, wrote the book after they “had been baying at the moon about the things that outrage us in politics.”

“We are outraged, as I think most Americans are, about the stuff we write about in there,” Mr. Morris said.

The book also suggests banning all immigration from countries where terrorists live, even those with no criminal backgrounds.

“We have no idea who has ties and who doesn’t have ties to these groups,” Mr. Morris said.

There would be some exceptions, he said, but the government does not have the ability to learn the background of every immigrant.

“I don’t think we have the capacity to determine if people from these 18 countries, cited by the State Department, are tied to these groups,” Mr. Morris said.

Political scandals cause Americans to lose faith in politicians, Mr. Morris said, but government has the power to change that.

“Each time we complain about something, we offer very specific solutions on how to handle them, and I hope people will follow the action solutions we offer at the end of each chapter,” Mr. Morris said.

The book discusses what Mr. Morris considers unethical behavior by some of the 2008 presidential candidates, giving an instance when Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2005 and inserted an amendment into an appropriations bill allocating $800,000 to help the museum move into a new building.

“Some of the candidates are not members of Congress. Obama’s been in the Senate for only a couple of months, so they haven’t had the opportunity to do some of the traveling and earmarking Hillary has,” Mr. Morris said. “But I hope the exposure of their conduct will resonate on the campaign trail.”

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